Monday, November 21, 2005

APPLE, iPODS, AND PATENTS OH MY! Ever since Apple's iPod patent applications were found to have similarities with co-pending multimedia software applications filed by Microsoft, some journalists started to wonder whether a showdown was in the works between the two computer giants.

There wasn't.

When Creative Technology announced that they received patents on "iPod-related" features, one couldn't help but speculate if Creative was preparing to have a go at Apple.

They weren't.

Now say hello to Illinois-based Premiere International, who decided to file suit against Apple earlier this month in - guess where - Texas. The lawsuit alleges that Apple is infringing US patents 6,243,725 and 6,763,345. The '345 patent is a continuation of the '725 patent, which was originally filed in May 21, 1997. The patents deal with building an inventory of audio or audio/visual works, such as music videos. A plurality of works can be collected together in a list for establishing a play or a presentation sequence, and the list can be visually displayed and edited. A plurality of lists can also be stored for subsequent retrieval.

The patents are of the "old-school" variety: lots of claims (210 between the both of them), with each set of independent claims having slightly different variations from the others. This used to be standard operating procedure during the State Street days (1998-2000), where practitioners weren't exactly sure if the State Street ruling would be overturned. As a result, patent practitioners drafted every concievable variation of claimed elements as a way to ensure that at least some part of the patent would be valid if the Federal Circuit or Supreme Court had a change of mind.

Anyways, from a prior art standpoint, the patents listed a variety of screen-shots from Windows Media Player and other CD Players (including CD Player 2.0 for Windows and MS-DOS). This should gum up the works a bit for grabbing the more "obvious" prior art sources.

And some of the claims are quite broad - check out claim 16 from the '725 patent:

16. A system for building a plurality of play lists having entries selected from an inventory which can be obtained at least in part, from different sources, the system comprising:

a data base for storing a plurality of user created pre-stored play lists;

a play list editing system having a graphical display and a plurality of instructions which enables a user to simultaneously display portions of an inventory of the stored items and portions of a selected play list including editing instructions enabling a user to select a displayed inventory item and to insert it into the displayed portion of the list thereby creating a modified list and additional instructions for storing the modified list in the data base and for subsequently displaying a plurality of pre-stored lists, each of which can be selected for execution.

It seems that this story will not end with Apple . . .

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